There are a variety of different kinds of bees that we encounter in Northeast Ohio. While a handful are stingless, most can leave you with painful stings if they feel threatened. And on top of that, honeybees are a valuable natural resource, with hives that you don't want to indiscriminately terminate.
While bees are closely related to wasps and ants, they're much more useful thanks to their role in pollination as well as for producing honey and beeswax. They are found on every continent except Antarctica, and we have quite a few of the 20,000 known species of bee here in Northeast Ohio!
The the most common type of bee in the Northern Hemisphere are called sweat bees, small- to mid-size bees that named as such because they're often attracted to perspiration... though, they're often mistaken for wasps (mid-size) or flies (the small ones). Sweat bees, like many other bees, aren't likely to sting you without provocation.
Another well-known kind of bee is the European honey bee. Honey bees have been in the news lately thanks to honey bee Colony Collapse Disorder, or CCD, which we'll be talking about on ourBug Blog soon.
A type of bee you need to be cautious of are commonly called Africanized honey bees, or, colloquially, "killer bees." They're a hybrid of regular Western honey bees, produced by cross-breeding in an attempt to increase honey production. But, they escaped quarantine in Brazil in 1957 and have been spreading ever since, arriving in North Americain 1985.
Africanized honey bees are more dangerous than your regular-issue honey bees to do a much higher level of defensiveness, aggression, and swarm behavior. They're much more likely to attack something they interpret as a threat, and attack in much larger numbers (and more persistently) than regular honey bees. They'll also chase a perceived threat for well over 1500 feet. Bear in mind that their venom when stinging is the same as that of regular honey bees! But, because of all of those aggression factors, they've been dubbed "killer bees" by the public and made the subject of horror movies and thrillers. We don't want to minimize the danger of Africanized honey bees; it's still very dangerous for an untrained professional to attempt removal of a hive, and it's easy to get swarmed if you do something threatening to their hive. But at the same time, Africanized honey bees don't "cruise the town" looking for innocent victims to swarm & sting!